The Side Stitch

This morning was a 7 mile run for my pace group. It was cold, windy, and icy downright treacherous outside. I think at one point we were literally tip-toeing along the icy trail to avoid slipping and falling. It made for an interesting adventure, to say the least, and a tough run for all. All peril aside though, the group did an amazing job – I was so impressed! The runners I ran with only a month ago are not the runners that I ran with today. They are stronger, faster, more confident, and really coming out of their shells. I noticed today that – ice aside – people were chatting and laughing as we were running. They were eager to be running, which makes me thrilled to run with them!

It was the first time most of them have ever run 7 miles and it was truly exciting to watch them accomplish what they set out to do. I heard people saying things like, “Who would have thought the first 4 miles would be no big deal?” and “I overcame my mental block today!” and “I can’t believe we just ran 7 miles without stopping,” and “You did such a great job!”

We also had a mid-week run on Thursday with temperatures in the single digits and darkness. Let me tell you, these runners are tough (Thank you to Deb who took our picture in the cold!):

MIT Lucky 13’s

Cramps and Running:

I had one of the ladies in the group ask me today what to do about a cramp she was having in her side. I immediately told her to put her arm in the air (as if asking a question in school) and breathe as deeply as possible. “Wow that really does help!” She exclaimed. I was glad to be able to pass on some advice that proved to be helpful.

There are basically three kinds of cramps that can occur when running:

The Side Cramp (a.k.a. Stitch): While this type of cramping is fairly common in running, it doesn’t make it any less painful. It can plague novice and veteran runners alike and according to Jeff Galloway – 1972 Olympian and veteran runner – is generally a result of shallow breathing, not breathing deeply from the lower lung.  

Tip to fix: I have found that raising your arm in the air while running forces you to breath deeper and helps to alleviate any cramping associated with shallow breathing. Galloway also suggests putting your hand on your stomach as you breathe because if you are breathing from your lower lungs your stomach should be rising and falling with each breath. Sometimes, just starting out a little slower can also help alleviate side stitches.

The Stomach Cramp: This type of pain, often in the lower abdominals, can also be associated with shallow breathing. However, it can also be the result of putting too much fluid or food into your stomach at one time. I try to drink small amounts of water at hydration stations and not overdo it.  

Tip to fix: Avoid eating for a longer period of time before you set out to run. Also pay attention to what you eat and its effects on your running. You may be choosing a pre-workout food that doesn’t agree with you.

Leg Cramps: Severe muscle cramping, especially in the legs, is often a result of dehydration. I make sure I encourage the runners in my pace group to drink fluids – Gatorade and water – even when they don’t feel thirsty to remain hydrated and avoid muscle cramping. Galloway also says that an imbalance of blood electrolytes (such as calcium, potassium, and sodium) can cause cramping.  

Tip to fix: Make sure you are properly hydrated before, during, and after your run. Ideal fluid intake should be 12 to 20 ounces of fluid before a workout or race and 5 to 7 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes during your run (Ohio Health Sports Medicine). Typically, people are 2 percent dehydrated every day. Drinking during the day is really important!

Inspirational Quote:

“Running long and hard is an ideal antidepressant, since it’s hard to run and feel sorry for yourself at the same time. Also, there are those hours of clearheadedness that follow a long run.”
-Monte Davis

Until the next mile marker,

Comments

  1. Nice run!!! It was very icy out there in spots.

  2. Thanks for the tip! I had a side stitch this week for the first time and I tried a technique to concentrate more on my breathing and it went away.

  3. thanks for the great tips :)- i have had the side stitch many times and will definitely try raising my arm next time.

  4. TutuRunner says:

    7 miles! wow! nice work.
    i get side cramps alot… mostly when the finish line is in view, or i’m anxious about a big hill. weird. (i apparently stop breathing, which is kinda’ important)
    i always have to make sure i breathe all the way OUT. i end up sounding like a freight train, pushing every tid-bit of air out of my lungs, which naturally makes me breathe deeper on the “in”.
    it always takes a bit to settle back in.
    i’ll try the arms trick next time.

  5. TutuRunner says:

    7 miles! wow! nice work.
    i get side cramps alot… mostly when the finish line is in view, or i’m anxious about a big hill. weird. (i apparently stop breathing, which is kinda’ important)
    i always have to make sure i breathe all the way OUT. i end up sounding like a freight train, pushing every tid-bit of air out of my lungs, which naturally makes me breathe deeper on the “in”.
    it always takes a bit to settle back in.
    i’ll try the arms trick next time.

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